Graphic Novel and Curriculum Tackle Oklahoma’s Past

Monday, August 15, 2022

Media contact: Bonnie Cain-Wood | Manager, University Library Communication Services | 405-744-7331 | bonnie.cain@okstate.edu

“Chilocco Indian School: A Generational Story,” a graphic novel written by Julie Pearson-Little Thunder with art and design direction by Johnnie Diacon and Jerry Bennett, is now available for free download. The novel was produced by the Oklahoma Oral History Research Program in conjunction with the Chilocco National Alumni Association.

The graphic novel is part of a larger history project related to the Chilocco Indian Agricultural School, which was the largest intertribal Native boarding school in the United States. The project includes oral history interviews with former students, photos, a documentary and educational resources. Additional funding from the Tom J. and Edna M. Carson Foundation allowed the project to expand its storytelling efforts.

“Part of the goal of the project is to make these primary sources on this school and the history of Indian education in the United States more accessible in the classroom,” said Sarah Milligan, OOHRP manager. “For us, the goal was to create an easy gateway to this complicated part of Oklahoma history so that it would be a little easier to integrate into a classroom.”

The novel centers on Jaya Thomas, a young Aboriginal teenager who follows her grandmother and aunt to a family reunion where she learns about Chilocco and her nearly century-long history through the stories her aunt and grandmother mother share. By listening to her family recount their experiences of both Chilocco and what it was like to be Native American at that time, Jaya also gains a better understanding of her family’s history and their shared ways.

“Having parents who attended the various boarding schools in Indian Country and having myself been a student in a marriage, I am humbled and honored to have the opportunity to use my artistic gift to help tell these stories,” said said Johnnie Diacon. “This seems particularly significant in light of recent developments in the news regarding the often untold and unknown dark history of these schools.”

“Chilocco Indian School: A Generational Story,” can be downloaded for free at chilocco.library.okstate.edu/graphic-novel. There are also project-based learning modules for the classroom.

“I hope our natives, Chilocco alumni, and non-native readers of the graphic novel enjoy, enjoy, and learn from the small contribution that the graphic novel hopefully will make to the larger history of boarding schools in the country. Indian. a wider audience,” Diacon said. “Perhaps this will be the seed from which a mighty oak tree grows and those who read it will be moved to know more.

Funding for this program is provided in part by a grant from Oklahoma Humanities (OH) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of OH or NEH.

About Oklahoma Humanities

Oklahoma Humanities (OH) is an independent, nonprofit organization whose mission is to strengthen communities by helping Oklahomans discover the human experience, understand new perspectives, and meaningfully participate in civic life in through humanities disciplines such as history, literature, film studies, art criticism, and philosophy. As a state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities, OH offers a free educational magazine, Smithsonian Institution exhibits, reading and discussion groups, monthly podcasts, and other cultural opportunities for Oklahomans of all ages. OH engages people in their own communities, stimulating discussion and helping them explore the larger world of human experience.

Irene B. Bowles